2010 BMW 1200 GSA North American Launch - First Riding Impression - Dirt Rider Magazine

Yes, it is a little late in the 2010 to be releasing a new 2010, but leave it to BMW to do it their own way. The new GSA (GS Adventure 1200) has some pretty big tricks up its sleeve, enough to make a pretty big stink about it, even of it is a little late to the game.The big news is the addition of a second camshaft inside the head and an all new design for better flow, bigger valves and more torque and power, as if a sudo-dirt bike with 100-ponies needed more power in the first place. But the company felt it did and it got it. Remember kids, this machine lives a lot of its life on the road where more power is king. But it is claimed as better power and we'll talk about that later. And if you like to think about how BMW does things different, they had the cutting edge Formula One guys redesign the traditional air and oil-cooled head to get the most out of it. Talk about throwing the past into the future for the best of all times. Ever heard of sodium filled valves? The GSA has them.Additional changes are to the styling and the inclusion of some pretty interesting electronic controls to the power and suspension that are way out there compared to what we play with in the dirt bike world. Electronic suspension control that alters ride height and suspension stiffness and electronic engine tuning that senses wheel traction and actually assists in stability control.

But you may be asking what exactly is a GS? Well, it is a do-all motorcycle that has a 30-year tradition with Dakar wins and world journeys under its tires. It is street bike royal that will go in the dirt. It is a single motorcycle that will prove that you are never on the wrong bike. Or never on the right bike, depending on how you look at it. But as BMW says, there isn't a bike on the market with the bandwidth of the GS Adventure, and we agree. It takes over eight gallons of gas, cylinders that stick out where they usually don't and unconventional thinking to make a bike like this. All those years and a lot of loyal owners, plus a worldwide sales statistic for the model that would make any company envious and you have the success of the GS.So what does $18,700 to $20,245 get you? Well in riding it we found this. It is everything the GS line has been and just a little bit more because you can feel the improvement in power, especially in torque, just enough to make a difference. It isn't a drastic change for anyone familiar with the recent 1200, but if you have any experience with the older 1100 or 1150 GS models, it is a huge change in punch, pick-up and outright pull. The interesting thing about the new motor is that it has gained back some of that chug and torque pull the older engines were so famous for, but at the same time it will pick up and go a little better too. In the upper mid range the engine pulls about the same as the current bike but as you reach for the rev limiter, it has some added pull and a little longer rev ceiling.And that is the major difference from the older model. The ESA (electronic suspension adjust) is something that will eventually come to the dirt bike world, I suspect, but for now it is a very basic system that is effective and fun to play with. It alters the ride height as well as the damping in three different settings. But for the most part, especially off-road, the stiffest setting was the most plush and allowed the suspension to get the most of the stroke, riding in the softer settings let it sack down a little and actually act stiffer and harsher.

So the question is, is this a dirt bike? Well if you take the big GS off-road, then yes it is. It isn't anything you'd be looking to go tackle tough trails on, it is more of a gravel or jeep road explorer where when the speeds are kept under control, it will perform better than expected. Today alone we rode in mud, snow, ice, pavement, wood bridges, water crossings, got turned around on CHP closed roads, more snow and ice and some fine trails between great lunch and rest stops, which BMW is famous for finding. But forget what the bike is, a full-fledged touring bike you could ride around the world, and the bottoming of the suspension and heavy weight has to be excused. Power is never an issue. The best thing about a flat twin is the gratuitous torque and smooth power it pumps out. The GSA has a low enough first gear to get the work done in creeping across tough stuff without killing the clutch as long as you don't rev the engine and slip it a lot. It is a ride-it-all-day through whatever the conditions present you with and make it back to the bar to have a Kessler or Pabst, your choice, if that is your thing (or they serve that stuff!)There is almost a cult of adventure riders out there for whom the GS is the bike of choice. It has a history that attracts them, a performance level, albeit a bit different than the norm, that they fall in love with and a accessory addiction that is well fed with every type of gadget, protection, gismo and luggage known to man. It would make a Harley rider jealous.

So if you are laughing at this impression, then you are too young to understand. And the only way is to take an adventure tour on a proper bike like the BMW GSA. Sure you can do it on a smaller less capable bike, but in the end you will envy what you see here. Thirty years of this has something to prove.